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Brand in a considered purchase

The insights stated here were gathered as a direct result of primary research interviews conducted with fairly prominent VP-level technology marketers.

The conventional wisdom sadly holds that Branding is unimportant in the considered purchase world of enterprise IT. Branding has been labeled a “soft” science – because it measures customers’ emotional responses to a company or its product. But impulses and aspirations play little part in the IT buying decision, it is argued, where the offer and the product are exceedingly complex. Branding’s definition within IT marketing has been effectively marginalized to its tactical design deliverables – logo, tagline, website – or abandoned as a concern of B2C markets alone. “Why waste your time?” one VP advised me, “we’re not selling Coca-Cola here.”

I’ve been told by these same brand naysayers that winning customers in the technology market is about building rapport, impressing the right decision makers, being easy to work with, and proving ROI. Well aren’t these all brand-building experiences for the customer? Don’t the customer’s perceptions linger long after the vendor representative has disappeared? The vendor’s behavior in the market, not its positioning statements, creates equity over time – and that level of satisfaction is a measurement of the strength of the brand.

Closing those first customers in IT might have more to do with sound strategic selling than with brand, but keeping them loyal, building references, expanding your footprint within accounts, and extending to ancillary markets are all going to be easier with a strong brand behind you. Fierce brand loyalty is much harder than product functionality for competitors to break, copy, or steal.

Brand Happens. A B2B tech vendor’s brand is formed and maintained in the marketplace with or without its active participation and influence. The customers control it, and they are already talking to each other. As B2B technology vendors, it’s up to us to join the conversation. Current trends such as software commoditization, SaaS/cloud/open source delivery models, social computing, the mobile enterprise, and regulatory compliance all demand a new appreciation for brand-building in our industry. A conscious and enlightened effort toward building stronger B2B technology brand loyalty will directly translate into higher financial valuations for the emerging vendors that pay attention to this “soft science”.

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